Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

Parents' Religious and Secular Perspectives on Ivf Planning in Serbia

Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

Parents' Religious and Secular Perspectives on Ivf Planning in Serbia

Article excerpt


To a greater or lesser degree, in one organizational form or another, the contemporary state aims to base its actions on altruism rather than solidarity and seeks to have this regulated through morality and law.1 Altruism is understood as a "motivational state with the ultimate goal of increasing another's welfare".2 Having that in mind, solidarity as a social value could be comprehended as a degree of altruism in competitive social systems; e.g. solidary regulated social reproduction, which provides basic rights, social protection and concern throughout the main channels of social mobility in one community.

As part of the larger culture, such an operational system is that of healthcare and social protection, which at least in South-Eastern Europe, includes a guarantee to free basic medical and social protection. The history of medicine and (bio)ethics shows that solidarity is ever less included into the fundamental idea of care and protection. Solidarity as a form of care reached its peak, in a somewhat sacral form in the Middle Ages, when social life used to unfold within a given community.3 It seems that the processes of secularisation, differentiation, professionalisation of society, while advancing the methods and instruments of treatment and protection (in medicine as in law), have at the same time forgotten that care is one of the most significant elements of altruism and of solidarity. This gradual and systemic weakening of care also manifests itself on the level of our daily lives and becomes just another way of living for certain social strata, neglecting what actually health and care mean for achieving well-being.4

With this in mind, apart from free basic health care, the Serbian system provides the possibility of free treatment of infertility, recognized as an illness, allowing for the fulfilment of the social role of parenthood. In addition to medical treatment and prevention of potential causes of infertility (e.g. sexually transmitted infections), the system ensures medical, legal and social conditions for conception through Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) for partners and single women with established infertility.5 This option (table 1)6 is complemented by juridical sub-acts of the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) that allow for two free attempts of ART for persons who fulfil certain health or physiological requirements.7 In case of two unsuccessful bio-medical interventions, certain local (city) governments offer the option of paying for a third free attempt at IVF. "Consequently, from this perspective, altruism refers to one organism enhancing the reproductive advantage of another, especially at cost to itself".8 Which bears the question of whether the state can personify a characteristic such as reproductive or procreative altruism. Do the individuals or couples involved in these processes reproduce this behaviour or these motives, such as donating their own material to an anonymous couple, just for treating infertility or do they have a broader view of altruism, donating this material also for purposes of scientific research?

The city of Belgrade provided 131 free of charge, so-called "third chance" IVF attempts, and the city of Pancevo provided 9. All 140 interventions were performed at public clinics.9 Even though until recently Serbia did not possess either a private or public bio-repository, a social context like this promotes an image of an altruistic society.

The surveys on parenthood underline the importance of the parental social role in the fulfilment of the idea of the sovereign and good life.10 11 Although it is very difficult to define a "good life"12 given a specific cultural context, different persons in similar situations can have the same perception of the good and sovereign life. Such a perception does not necessarily mean that the good life is sovereign or even truly good at all. Striving for parenthood sometimes requires not only a concession of autonomy, but it might also entail a denigration of the value of parenthood in the lives of other people. …

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